The House Judiciary Committee will meet today for a hearing on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). What could have been an opportunity for the committee to hear from a variety of stakeholders has devolved into a parade of pro-SOPA partisans. Scheduled to testify are representatives from the Register of Copyrights, Pfizer Global Security, the Motion Picture Association of America, the AFL-CIO, and Mastercard Worldwide—many of which helped to draft this legislation in the first place, and didn’t let anyone else into the room. The only scheduled witness in opposition to the bill is Katherine Oyama, policy counsel on copyright and trademark law for Google.
Whether you support or oppose the bill, there’s no question that it will affect a broad range of activities, which is one reason we’ve seen an extraordinary outcry of opposition since the bill was introduced.
In case you are wondering who the Committee should be hearing from today, here is a small sampling of the stakeholders that deserve a seat at the negotiating table:
Public interest organizations
EFF, Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy and Technology, TechFreedom, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Demand Progress and many others have all raised strong objections to SOPA, including concerns that the language in the bill is so broad that it could be used to shut down access to almost any website.
Consumer groups have also raised concerns that SOPA could be used to close off online exchanges that provide lower prices for consumers and allow for anti-consumer practices by online service providers. And that’s only the beginning – if made law, this bill would give overreaching rightholders any easy way to threaten innovation, including social media and cloud computing, that consumers count on.
Independent filmmakers and musicians
Independent artists are often innovators, trying out new technologies and business models in order to distribute and profit from their work. Independent producers of content have expressed concern that SOPA will shut down the innovative technologies they rely on, or prevent them from being built in the first place.
The engineers who helped to build the Internet have warned that SOPA will break the Internet by meddling with the Domain Name System, which links IP addresses to domain names.
Aside from Google, no technology company has a seat at the table. Google has joined a coalition of companies, including Facebook, eBay and Zynga, in opposing SOPA on the grounds that it will stifle innovation and cost the US tech-sector jobs. But surely the Committee needs to hear from some of the numerous job-creating companies in the tech sector – as well as the innovators of tomorrow – who might be affected by this bill?
This legislation is full of holes – and it appears its sponsors don’t want them exposed. Tell Congress to stop this bill now!